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Your guide to extended households

We know that it has been a difficult journey so far – especially if you’re the only adult living in your home. But, the good news is that some people can now form an extended household with another family or person who they don’t live with. This is a change that can provide comfort and support by giving you the chance to spend more time with friends or loved ones, and hopefully, get some much-needed help with childcare.

However, it’s important to remember that to form an extended household, at least one of the two households must only have one adult living in it. As well as this, no one in either household can be shielding.

Having an extended household allows everyone in both homes to act as if they all live together – meaning that you no longer have to stay 2 metres apart from each other. You can also spend as much time together as you like – including staying overnight. In an extended household you can eat together, watch TV together, drive in the same car, basically everything you already do at home – you can even hug!

Choosing an extended household

If you’re the only adult living in your home, it’s a good idea to take some time to think about who you want to form an extended household with. If you have older children, you may also want to discuss it with them too. Remember that both households have to agree to form an extended household – so be sure to talk this through. 

One way to help decide is to think about your needs. For example, you may need support with childcare, be missing your friends or family, or be concerned about other family members who are on their own. If you don’t live with your partner, forming an extended household means that you can be together again. So take some time to think it over to make sure the decision is best for everyone involved.

Guidelines on forming an extended household

  • Only adults who live alone (or live alone with children under 18 years old) can form an extended household with another household.
  • You can only form an extended household with one other household.
  • Each extended household must be exclusive – so if you chose to form an extended household with someone, they cannot form an extended household with anyone else.
  • No one in either household can be shielding.
  • Once you’ve agreed on your extended household, you can’t swap it for another.
  • Households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form a new extended household.

Protecting those at risk

People who are currently shielding to reduce their chances of catching coronavirus cannot be part of an extended household at this time.

Other high risk groups such as people over 70, pregnant mothers and those with underlying medical conditions can be part of an extended household, but should keep following the handwashing, surface cleaning and hygiene guidance on the NHS Inform website.

Meeting up with other households

Once you’ve agreed on your extended household, you can think of yourselves as being one big, single household, rather than two. This means your extended household can meet up outside with up to two other households, up to a maximum of 8 people, but your extended household should maintain physical distancing with other households and follow hygiene guidance.

Frequently asked questions

How many adults can live in an extended household?

An adult living alone or with children under 18 can form an extended household, as long as no one in either home is shielding or has already formed an extended household with someone else. As long as one of the households has only one adult in it, there is no limit to the number of adults allowed in the second household.

For example, a single parent of children under 18 could form an extended household with their parents/family, a group of adult friends who live together, or with another family.

Can l have an extended household with a relative who is over 70 and lives alone?

Yes, as long as no one in either household is shielding or in another extended household.

Can the adults in an extended household look after each other’s children?

Yes. There are no physical distancing requirements with extended households, so you can look after each other’s children, and spend time at either house. This is one reason why it’s important to think about your needs when choosing an extended household.

How long does an extended household agreement last?

As long as you need it to. Households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form a new extended household.

Do you have to live in the local area to form an extended household?

No, you don’t need to live a certain distance from the household you wish to form an extended household with. However, it’s a good idea to think about your needs and whether forming an extended household with someone who lives far away will be helpful for you both.

I am a single parent living with my child, but my child also spends time with their other parent. Can my child’s other parent and I both have extended households?

Yes. You, and your child’s other parent, can each form an extended household separately. Your child can be part of both extended households as long as they’re under 18, and as long as you and their other parent lives alone, or only with children under 18. The household with whom each of you forms an extended household with cannot already be part of another extended household.

Is there a time limit on how long you can spend with members of your extended household?

No, you can even stay the night, or longer if you wish.

Is there a limit on the number of children that can be in an extended household?

No.

I am a single parent with a child under 18. Can my child form an extended household with their best friend?

Yes, if that family is happy to form an extended household. However, remember that together you and your child can only form one extended household, so if your child forms one with a friend, you will not be able to form a different one with anyone else.

What do I do if someone in my extended household starts showing coronavirus symptoms?

If someone has coronavirus symptoms, everyone in the extended household should self-isolate. The person with symptoms should book a test online on the NHS Inform website. If they can’t book online, they can call 0800 028 2816. Anyone over the age of 5 who has symptoms can be tested.

If the test is negative, everyone in the extended household will be able to stop isolating. Until then, however, you should stay at home.

If the test is positive, the person with symptoms should isolate for 7 days and everyone in the extended household should isolate for 14 days. If the person is not tested, e.g. if they are under 5, you should act as if they have coronavirus, so they should isolate for 7 days and everyone in the extended household should isolate for 14 days.

It’s important that everyone remains in self-isolation for the full length of time they’re asked to.

You can find all the information about what you need to do in the NHS Inform website here.